Is this novel famous? My Salon.com contemporary author guide seems to think so--even says it gets read a lot in high school--but I'd never even heard of it before. Nor did I know exactly what I was in for until I started reading. Big mistake.Gardner, John. Grendel. 1971. New York: Vintage, 1989.Summary
: With illustrations by Emil Antonucci. Grendel of the Anglo-Saxon "Beowulf" tells his side of the story, as he watches Hrothgar build a mighty consortium, proceeds to smash it, and then ultimately meets his doom when a young but powerful king arrives.Comments
: Yes, indeedy, this is what I get sometimes when I don't know what I'm in for. And here I thought I'd get something like Wicked
. You know...something ENTERTAINING. Definitely not. Like Maguire, Gardner definitely has messages to impart that he thinks would be best-conveyed by borrowing a classic storyline--but Grendel might as well have been subtitled "John Gardner on Everything." Through a series of characters who are little better than philosophical talking heads (mead must be brain food), he argues that the self, government, religion, etc. must define itself in opposition to something else...even if what is "opposite" isn't in any absolute sense. Thus, you see Grendel discovering his sense of self through the Danes' mythological fear of monsters by becoming their very own personal monster. And more. Lots more. >_< For example, constructive efforts are wholly futile over the long term; even the destroyers themselves are eventually destroyed. So if you're looking for a good story, go elsewhere. Or read the original poem. The novel, ironically, is at its best when the characters shut up; the similarities between Beowulf and the dragon constitute some of the most unforgettable images between the covers, period. Notes
: trade paperback, 4th printingRating
- Just be sure you know what you're in for, or...WHOA.